Tübingen is a beautiful city with a beautiful university (actually more of a beautiful university with a beautiful city attached on the side: the university is the city). It was left untouched in the war, so it’s filled with lovely old buildings. The buses run frequently and it’s astonishingly cheap (less than 60 Euros) for a semester ticket for unlimited use on all buses and trains in Tübingen and its surrounding cities. Food, rent and beer are also very cheap, although that’s not what you’ll hear from the locals: they claim that everything is over-priced because there are so many students here. To me, however, everything I mentioned above appears to be less than half the price of Brisbane.

I arrived in Tübingen in July with no plan whatsoever and managed to find a place to stay for 3 months until October within two days. Over the summer holidays there are plenty of students who leave Tübingen and are therefore looking for someone to take over their rent for the holidays. From October I was in a normal Student-WG organised through the university.

As preparation I took part in the annual Summer-course for four weeks in August, and the START-course for three weeks in September. It was an excellent thing to do, as it reminded me of and reinforced everything I learnt at UQ, and really gave momentum to my German, which was incredibly helpful for when I began classes in October. They also help you with visa related things and uni registration, and doing those two courses earned me 9 ECTS points, which in turn reduced my workload for the actual semester!

From October I took three German courses, one Chinese and one Korean course – though Korean ended up taking up most of my time, as it was 8 hours a week. Looking back, I wish I’d taken more courses outside of the German as a foreign language (DAF) department: my Korean course improved my German more than two of the German courses, simply because it was taught in native level German and all of my classmates were German – it was here that I got to know most of my German friends. As you can probably imagine, you don’t meet a great deal of Germans in DAF courses.

Tübingen is the youngest city in Germany – of the 90,000 inhabitants, over 25,000 are students at the university. Here is the best advice I can give you: Tübingen does not consist solely of other foreign exchange students. It pains me to always see enormous groups of Englanders/Americans/Australians walking drunkenly through the streets, talking loudly in English and pretending they aren’t in Germany. It’s a total waste to spend your entire exchange only speaking English with other foreigners – especially when you’re a language student, so unless you’re simply after a six-month long drunken English speaking experience, do make an effort to find German friends.

5 tips to improve your German while you’re here:

  • On the side from your German courses, enroll in non-DAF courses that are taught entirely in German, but don’t require amazing German skill – eg. 1st year Korean. Note: 1st year courses are better, because everyone is new and looking for friends, which makes things easier.
  • Take German courses at a higher level than you think you’re at – 5 months is a long time to improve and the courses will turn out to be much easier than you think.
  • Make a big effort to socialise with all the locals that you come into contact with – housemates, classmates, whatever. I’m not sure why, but everyone loves Australians, and they’ll introduce you to their friends, and you’ll have loads of opportunities to practice your spoken German.
  • Don’t just frequent the exchange student parties, and don’t let your abundance of foreign friends (inevitable if you take German preparatory courses) get in the way of socialising with locals – that will only alienate yourself, and create distance between you and the locals.
  • Do your homework, read lots of German books, watch lots of German TV and study study study! 

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